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Long John Hunter biography



John Thurman Hunter Jr. (July 13, 1931 – January 4, 2016), known by the stage name Long John Hunter, was an American Texas blues and electric blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. He released seven albums in his own name, and in his later years found critical acknowledgement outside of his homeland. Hunter's best known tracks are "El Paso Rock" and "Alligators Around My Door", the latter of which Hunter co-wrote with Bruce Iglauer. Hunter was born in Ringgold, Louisiana. He was raised on a farm in Magnolia, Arkansas, but by his early twenties was working in a box factory in Beaumont, Texas. He bought his first guitar after attending a B. B. King concert, and then adopted the stage name of Long John Hunter in 1953. Hunter saw his first single, "She Used to Be My Woman" b/w "Crazy Girl", released by Duke Records in 1953. By 1957 he had relocated to El Paso, Texas, and found employment playing at the Lobby Club in Juárez, Mexico. He remained there for over thirteen years, seeing the release of several singles in the early 1960s on local record labels. These tracks included one of his most notable numbers, "El Paso Rock". In 1988, his album, Texas Border Town Blues was released. In 1992, Ride with Me preceded a couple more albums for Alligator Records, Border Town Legend (1996) and Swinging from the Rafters (1997). In 1999, Hunter teamed up with Lonnie Brooks and Phillip Walker to release Lone Star Shootout. Hunter appeared at the Long Beach Blues Festival in both 1996 and 2000. His last album release was Looking for a Party (2009). He died on January 4, 2016, at his home in Phoenix, Arizona Long before Hunter became a world-renowned recording artist, he was already a major draw in the Beaumont/Port Arthur, Texas region, where he cut his first 45. In 1957 he headed to Juarez, Mexico where he led the house band at the rough and tumble Lobby Bar for the next 13 years. There he played for locals, cowboys, soldiers, tourists and touring musicians, including Buddy Holly, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Lightnin' Hopkins, Etta James, Albert Collins and many others. He became a mentor to a young Bobby Fuller (I Fought The Law). Twice James Brown brought his band to witness Hunter in action. The second time Brown surprisingly took the stage during a set break. Unfazed, the audience screamed for Brown and company to move on and clear the way for the return of their hero, Long John Hunter. Hunter became regionally famous not only for his musicianship, but for his showmanship. One of his favorite tricks was to hold his guitar by the neck in one hand while continuing to play. With his free hand, he'd reach up, grab a rafter above the stage and start to swing, never missing a beat. The Lobby Bar crowd delighted in Long John's antics, and they inspired the title of his 1997 album, Swingin' From The Rafters. John T. Hunter, Jr. was born in Ringgold, Louisiana on July 13, 1931 and grew up in Arkansas and Texas. He had no interest in being a professional musician until, when he was 22, co-workers at the Beaumont, Texas box factory where he worked took him to see B.B. King perform at the Raven Club. Hunter later said he was amazed at the reception King got from the crowd, especially the frenzy of the women in the audience. The next day Hunter went out and bought a guitar. That very week he put a band together and before long developed his own style, mixing swinging blues and razor sharp guitar playing reminiscent of fellow Texans Albert Collins and Gatemouth Brown, with a definite nod towards B.B. King. Less than a year later, Hunter was headlining at the Raven Club, the very same place he first saw B.B. Hunter's growing reputation spread to Houston, where Don Robey of Duke Records (home of Gatemouth Brown, Bobby Bland and Junior Parker) released Hunter's first single, Crazy Baby b/w She Used To Be My Woman, in 1954. The record didn't win Hunter a national audience, but it did generate enough interest to keep him working full time as a musician. Hunter headed for Houston in 1955 to try and capitalize on his Duke single. He played shows with Little Milton, Johnny Copeland and many others. Two years later, he moved west to El Paso. The very night Hunter arrived, he crossed the border into Juarez, Mexico and found work at the Lobby Bar where he stayed for the next 13 years. "If it didn't happen at the Lobby Bar," Long John often said, "it just didn't happen in life." Releasing only a small number of 45s, Hunter didn't record a full album until 1993's Ride With Me(Spindletop, reissued by Alligator). He signed with Alligator in 1996. His label debut, Border Town Legend, brought his music and his story to the masses. With his 1997 follow-up Swingin' From The Rafters, Hunter went from being a locally revered Texas bluesman to being an internationally touring festival headliner. In 1999 he joined his old Beaumont friends Lonnie Brooks and Phillip Walker for the Texas rave-up CD, Lone Star Shootout. The Chicago Tribune said, "Hunter embodies Texas blues in all its varied, roustabout glory like no one on the scene today." As his stature grew, so did his tour calendar. He played numerous high-profile concerts including The Chicago Blues Festival, South By Southwest, San Antonio Cultural Festival, Long Beach Blues Festival, as well as multiple tours of the U.S and Europe. Hunter continued to perform and record, releasing independent CDs in 2003 and 2009.